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Caribbean Journal of Education

Language Teacher or Service Representatives?

Publication Date: 
September 2017

Jamaican Creole (JC) and Standard Jamaican English (SJE) are the two dominant languages in Jamaica but they do not function equally in certain contexts. In public formal domains, the use of JC is limited since most information from the state is disseminated to the public in English. When JC is used in such contexts traditionally reserved for English, linguistic gatekeepers such as teachers and service representatives (SRs), use corrective gate-keeping practices to repair the speech of their interlocutors. This practice of linguistic gate-keeping in public formal domains may have serious implications for JC dominant and monolingual speakers. The data for this paper come from doctoral research on linguistic discrimination in Jamaica’s public agencies and includes 192 recorded telephone interactions with preselected SRs in public entities in the western, central and eastern regions of Jamaica. A matched guise technique was used to collect the subjective reactions of a male and a female bilingual caller, who interacted with SRs in SJE on one occasion, and JC on another. The callers wrote their own evaluations of the encounters on a Call Assessment Sheet. Each telephone encounter was analyzed to examine the SRs’ conversational practices in providing favourable and unfavourable service to the callers. One such conversational practice, that of the SRs’ correction strategies, is the focus of this paper.

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